BBC Two’s Versailles has recently enjoyed a third series, did you catch it? Based on the life and times of Louis XIV it stars the inimitable Catherine Walker in the role of Madame de Maintenon. Catherine chatted to Entertainment Views about the recent series and the extraordinary character she plays (wonderfully, in our humble opinion!).
Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Catherine. Tell me about the latest series of Versailles and how you feel your character has grown.
The latest series of Versailles looks at the path to absolute power. France is expanding its empire and Louis is unstoppable in his ambition. however he comes up against the church and the growing unrest of the protestants and the people of France who are suffering economically as a result of these ambitions. Maintenon is integral to this as she guides Louis on the path of Absolutism with her unwavering and zealot like belief in the divine right of Kings. There is also at the heart of the series the mystery of the man in the iron mask a secret which could unravel the very bedrock of the throne
What was your opinion of your character back when you first read the script?
When I first read the scripts I was fascinated by this women, who when we first meet her is nothing more than a nanny to the kings children, during season 3 she becomes the most powerful women in Europe. Its a fascinating trajectory. She was not of nobility but there’s was a very true love, a meeting of minds and of equals. She was the great strength behind the throne.
Why do you think Versailles has picked up such a strong following?
I think Versailles has picked up a strong following because it is such a rich story with brilliant well drawn characters. When you are working on actual historical figures they are so far beyond what could be imagined fictionally. It is also such an aesthetically beautiful and sumptuous period. It is a visual feat for the audience and the attention to detail is unparalleled.
What are the challenges of your role?
The challenges of my role was getting into the mind-set of someone who is so zealot like in their beliefs. She is a devout catholic and absolutely believes that Louis is in direct line to God. It was important to get to the root of that because all her decision making comes from there and that can lead to some very dark places as you will see in the series.
What would you say to current viewers to encourage them to stick with it?
For current viewers, I would say the series will keep surprising you. This is the ultimate series and the conclusions for all the characters won’t disappoint. There is much still to come!
What would you say to potential new viewers to entice them to start watching it?
For new viewers I would say it’s a world that has to be seen to be believed, and much of it is based on truth. It is a rich story, beautifully told, with a great cast of characters, filled with intrigue and darkness – but there was also much fun to be had at Versailles – they knew how to party!
Finally, if you could play any other character in the series, who would it be and why?
If I could play another character in the series it would have to be the Chevalier. Maintenon is so strict in her beliefs she doesn’t get to let her hair down and go to the party…so that would be fun.
Huge thanks to Catherine for a superb interview!
Versailles series 3 and 1-3 box set arrive on DVD 13 August
Photo Credits: BBC Pictures